The object that came to mind when I thought of a gender neutral object was a tube of toothpaste.
Of all of the products that we use for personal care, most of them have a gender associated with them. Some products are conventionally thought of as only being used by one gender, such as cologne for men or makeup for women. There are many other products that both genders typically use, but these products still are sold as different varieties for men and women. For example, products such as soap, shaving cream, or deodorant are all sold in male and female varieties, which typically have different packaging, colors, and scents. One of the only examples of these products that I could think of that doesn’t seem to have a gender identity is toothpaste. I’ve never seen any men’s or women’s toothpaste.
After watching the video, I thought about the things that I use to make assumptions about gender. Often, these assumptions are simply based on appearance, such as what clothes someone wears or what their hair looks like. Just like any stereotypes, these observations may be true for some people, but don’t fit for many others. There are so many people who don’t follow these gender stereotypes that it is extremely unproductive to make these visual assumptions, yet I think most people still do. I think it is something so ingrained in our culture that it is hard to get rid of.
The Navajo culture mentioned in the video, who differentiate between the gender a person is born with and the role they play in life, have had their own view of gender, and just like us it has been ingrained in them for so long that it would likely be hard for them to see gender any other way either. I think there has been some progress recently in our culture in being more accepting of uniqueness in people in a variety of aspects, although there is a long way to go to transform the typical stereotypes into something like the Navajo people have or any other mindset.
When I see someone who does not seem obviously male or female, it may instinctively confuse me for a moment. Ultimately though, when I think about it, I recognize that the binary identification of gender doesn’t need to matter to someone’s identity.
Looking back at the toothpaste to see if there are any gender associations that could have been missed, I thought about the blue color and the mint flavoring, and tried to think about whether those features could give some kind of gender connotation. But at the end of the day, I feel like trying to find a gender identity in an item is just perpetuating stereotypes that don’t need to be continued anyway.